The BC Government has tabled new legislation that will impact how the professions of engineering and geoscience are regulated. If approved, the Professional Governance Act would restructure government oversight of the five professional regulators for engineering and geoscience, forestry, agrology, applied biology, and applied science technology under a new Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance.
What Is The Professional Governance Act?
This new legislation is the first step in implementing recommendations from the Professional Reliance Review. The legislation addresses items specific to governance and oversight of professional regulators, and provides a framework for consistent governance standards, including:
- increasing public representation and instituting a merit‐based nomination process for council;
- setting common ethical principles;
- requiring competency and conflict of interest declarations from qualified professionals;
- strengthening professionals’ duty to report unethical conduct of other professionals;
- providing whistle blower protections to those who report; and
- enabling professional regulators to regulate firms.
These changes would be introduced over time in order to modernize regulatory standards in BC.
What are the implications of the act? Will it be effective?
Over the preceding three months since the Professional Reliance report was released, we have been engaging with government and other stakeholders to articulate our concerns that any changes to regulatory oversight should enhance, rather than weaken protection of the public interest. While there are a number of unanswered questions about the implementation of the legislation, the framework introduced last week is considerably better than the one originally proposed by government in June, reflecting some key recommendations made by Engineers and Geoscientists BC during consultations.
While we appreciate these concessions, and see benefits in proper resourcing of government oversight and the addition of new regulatory tools to protect the public interest, it is too early to determine the efficacy of this new legislation and office.
The Office will have broad and sweeping powers and a number of the changes to regulatory oversight are significant. The key to successfully improving the framework and protecting the public interest will be careful, well considered implementation of the office and these changes. We are calling on government to be cautious and to work with the impacted regulators to ensure that the risks associated with sweeping change are identified and mitigated.
In addition, Engineers and Geoscientists BC has significant concerns with the portion of legislation that would provide independent practice rights for agrologists, biologists, and applied science technologists and technicians. While the legislation enables the provisions of these rights, no decision has been made on scope, or if they will ultimately be granted. Government has published an intentions paper on this subject, and is collecting input as a part of a consultation process. Engineers and Geoscientists BC will be actively engaged in that process to ensure that the public interest is appropriately protected.
If the new office is properly implemented, the Professional Governance Act has the potential to improve the regulatory framework in BC, but at this point there are too many unanswered questions to know how or if this will be achieved. The introduction of this legislation reflects the start of a long process of working with government and this new office to ensure that the model of effective self-regulation that has served British Columbians for 100 years is maintained and that these changes do indeed improve the protection of the public interest.
As regulations are developed, we will continue to work with government to the best of our ability to ensure changes to the regulatory model are carefully considered and effectively implemented.
If the legislation is enacted, regulations will need to be developed to support implementation. We have been advised that this would be a long-term process, with regulations on various provisions of the Act coming into force as they are developed. Each regulation is expected to involve its own consultation process, which Engineers and Geoscientists BC expects to be actively involved in. It is anticipated that it will take the next three to five years to fully implement the Act.
More information about Professional Reliance is available on our Professional Reliance webpage. A detailed analysis of the Professional Governance Act is provided here.
If you have questions, please contact [email protected].